Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sitting Pretty

Random Fact: My least favorite person is Andrew Dice Clay.
Each week, I assume my millions of readers enjoy my blog from the comfort of their own home. After a long day at the office, what better way to unwind than to slip into a pair of your most comfortable jammies, brew a steaming cup of tea with a touch of golden honey, wrap an old and reliable blanket around your weary shoulders, and settle into a favorite nook on your expansive and welcoming couch while reading your favorite blog. Your couch practically beckons you, “SIT ON ME,” and you gladly oblige. Once seated, you laugh aloud to your heart’s content while reading Life Without a Bulla, and the stresses of your day seem a distant memory as your eyelids feel heavy and the couch’s comfort lulls you into a blissful nap.

I however, have never been afforded such a luxury. Sure, I’ve got more jammies than I care to count, and the tea selection in my kitchen cabinets is overwhelming, to say the least (Celestial Seasonings, you owe me one). As for blankets, my apartment is equipped with blankets of every size, shape, and style to handle the harsh, biting winters that the Windy City and my poorly insulated apartment dishes out. Then what’s stopping me from experiencing the joys of my blog just as my beloved fans do, you ask? A COUCH, my dear readers, a couch.

From the moment I left home at age nineteen to move to the big city, there has been a distinct and painful absence from my life. No, I haven’t been ‘couchless’ for the past four and a half years, but I have had a turbulent, on again off again relationship with couches. My first apartment in Chicago’s ‘Loop’ was fitted with an old brown couch that my roommate and best friend Rick brought from his last pad. It wasn’t fancy by any means, but it got the job done. And as my current couchless self reflects on that brown lump, I realize I may have taken it for granted. It was reliable and loyal, complete with a matching recliner. It gave me ‘lulus’ when I was sick and provided a home for friends who needed a place to sleep. In fact, it was home to my creepy pervert roommate’s toothless and bruised mom when she and her five year old son decided to stay with us indefinitely in our two bedroom apartment. As a sign of gratitude for a place to sleep, she insisted I borrow her Opium perfume as often as I liked. I just wanted my couch back. If you’re reading this brown couch, I’m sorry.

As I moved to Lakeview a year later, my true couchless years began. For months, I sat on my carpeted living room floor, feeling like a squatter in my own home. I propped assorted throw pillows against the wall to create the illusion of a couch. As I sat on the floor and fiddled with the rabbit ears antenna on my 17 inch television, I took inventory of my life. I knew the life of a college student wasn’t supposed to be glamorous, but I was sure that my current status was borderline poverty. So, Sara and I worked a little magic and convinced my mom to purchase a fancy new futon from Wal-Mart as an early Christmas gift. Four hours and a lot of arguing later, Sara and I had built a futon (disclaimer: As her sister, I am obligated to include Sara in the futon building effort. In reality, Sara spent two of the four hours watching E! and half-assing it. Love you sis).

However, our smiles quickly faded as the futon began to slowly dismantle and eventually break. Perhaps, we were too enthusiastic and careless in our sitting, or maybe four hours of construction time still resulted in a substandard futon. I don’t know, I’m not a carpenter. But I do know now that the futon is only the dim-witted cousin of the couch, and does not deserve the same regard. So after only months of futon life, we were once again squatters.

This lifestyle continued for a YEAR in my new apartment as well. However, rather than sitting directly on our hard-wood floors, I resourcefully used our old futon mattress pad and our reliable assorted throw pillows as a faux couch. Essentially, we were still sitting on the floor, but the luxurious arrangement I had created lent to the sense of being in an exotic Middle Eastern harem (minus the concubines), or so I pretended. In reality, the futon mattress was no thicker than two inches, and I had just gotten used to the butt numbness one feels after sitting on a hard wood floor for too long.

But then, a turn of events. God turned his smiling face on my sister and me. A spare couch at my mom’s house. Sara’s friend’s pickup truck. Two guys with big couch-moving muscles and an afternoon off. KISMET. After years of waiting, it only took an afternoon to change my life. At first, I worried that perhaps I couldn’t adjust to a couch. Much like Tom Hanks’ character in Castaway still chooses to sleep on the bedroom floor after being rescued, would I still prefer the solid ‘comfort’ of the ground? Did I remember how to sit on a couch at all?

As it turns out, no- I do not prefer my hard wood floors to a couch and sitting proved to be effortless. In fact, I write this very blog from the comfort of my couch with a steaming cup of tea and a warm blanket. Now let me tell you a little story about my twin size bed…

Friday, February 13, 2009

I've got Whozits and Whatnots galore...

Random Fact: If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would be bagels and cream cheese.

IT. HAS. ARRIVED. Furry, friendly, lovable, and blue. My Muppet. Or more accurately, my dream.
My formative years were spent watching and adoring the Muppets. From The Muppet Show to Sesame Street to Fraggle Rock, I was an avid fan of all Jim Henson had to offer. I can recall sitting on the small piece of brown masking tape that my mom placed on the living room floor as a guide so my sisters and I wouldn't sit too close to the TV and watching Jim Henson classics such as "Follow That Bird," "The Great Muppet Caper," and "The Muppets Take Manhattan." Kermit was reliable, Miss Piggy was glamorous, and Fozzie was a lovable loser. I didn't just want Muppet friends, I wanted to be a Muppet.

I've often daydreamed of being immersed in the life of Muppets. What would Ann Lindsay look like as a Muppet? Perhaps the Swedish Chef and I would spend an afternoon in the kitchen together. Maybe I would set Sara up on a date with Gonzo, or arrange an internship for Grace with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. I assumed those daydreams would be just that- daydreams, until FAO Schwartz blessed me with the Jim Henson Muppet Whatnot Workshop.

According to Muppet Wiki, Muppet Whatnots are blank Muppet heads onto which facial features, bodies, and clothes are added to make any kind of character in the Muppet universe. Basically, Whatnots are the 'extras' in Muppet movies and shows. This was my chance!!! With careful and painstaking consideration, I would create the Muppet I longed to be. I could simultaneously become a certified Muppet AND cross something off the list of my life goals. Until recently, the list I've created detailing my life goals was somewhat abstract and largely unattainable. It goes a little something like this:

1. Meet, woo, and marry Sir Paul McCartney
2. Learn Spanish
3. Be a character on Family Guy
4. Become a Supreme Court Justice
5. Publish a book
7. Name my first born Albus Dumbledore
8. Be awesome
9. Own a bakery with my sissys
10. Be Oprah Winfrey
11. Create a recipe that starts with "Ann's famous..."
12. Be mentioned in TIME Magazine's Obituaries (this one's a little morbid)

Ok, maybe some of these are attainable. #2 and maybe even #5 are do-able. And obviously I've achieved and surpassed #8 when I became a Muppet (#6). Now some might ask, "How much did that Muppet cost?" to which I would reply, "You can't put a price on a dream!! And if you could it would cost too much so I don't wanna talk about it." The fact of the matter is that I most likely would have paid any price to have a Muppet created in my likeness.

But as indisputably awesome as the Muppet is, it's not the Muppet itself that's exciting, it's the fact that one of my ridiculous goals is actually attainable. Before this muppet, I knew that the likelihood of being Oprah Winfrey or a Supreme Court Justice was slim. However, I still included them on my list as a reminder of what I could maybe possibly in the very unlikely future aspire to. But this Muppet changes everything. If I can be a Muppet, is there anything I can't be?

I should have known that it would be a Muppet that would bring a little optimism into my confused life. Who else but Gobo Fraggle has advised me to dance my cares away and leave worries for another day? Sure, the Muppet didn't answer any of my burning questions like, "What the hell am I doing with my life?" or "What do blind people see when they dream?" but it gives me hope that perhaps I'll find the answer somewhere, like FAO Scwartz. And Paul, if you're reading this, call me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No Bananas Were Harmed in the Making of this Blog

Random Fact: The Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun" makes me want to wear the color yellow.

My adventure this week: baking!! I was in the mood to bake a bit and thought what better way to kick off this blog business (or 'bloginess' as Grace likes to say) than to try a new recipe. So I head over to the bookshelf that houses my collection of woefully under-used cookbooks and choose 'Nigella Feasts' at random. Aside from being British and having a knack for describing food that leaves me slightly confused, Nigella is a chocolate fan like myself. What treaures would I discover in her 300+ page cookbook??

As I flip through the book's glossy pages, I find fine British delacacies like Pear Pudding and Eton Mess. I choose to leave those treats to the Brits mostly because I don't quite know what they are, but also because my shotty oven can't handle anything denser than a frozen pizza. And that's when I happened across perhaps the most richly sinful chocolate cookies. After glancing at the ingredient list, I realize I only need butter and chocolate chips to complete the recipe. A quick trip to Jewel later and let the great experiment begin!

Problem #1: Reviewing the recipe a bit closer reveals that it yields 12 cookies. That isn't NEARLY enough if I plan to share them with co-workers who just can't get enough of my treats.
Solution: Double the recipe!
Problem #1.5: I don't have enough ingredients for a double batch.
Problem #2: The recipe lists the chocolate chips in ounces. Huh?
Problem #3: Baking soda and baking powder are not the same thing. I had the soda, I needed the powder

Hmmm, the problems were beginning to outweigh the solutions. At this point, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't discouraged (apparently, I get easily discouraged). Still determined to bake something, ANYTHING, I went to an old standby: Cake Mix cookies. GENIUS. A box of cake mix (banana this time), 2 eggs, 1/3 cup of oil, some brown sugar, and those chocolate chips and VIOLA! Is using a box of cake mix 'cheating'? Undoubtedly. Is it delicious? Absolutlely.

At first, I was upset with myself for not wingin' it with the Nigella recipe, for not livin' life on the edge! Am I such a creature of habit that even a new recipe is intimidating? Am I so lousy at math that attempting to convert ounces to something not-ounces was too difficult? Would this new recipe be another Christmas '08 kolacky disaster?

But as I began baking the Cake Mix cookies, I realized it wasn't the new recipe that I was excited to try, it was just the therapuetic process of baking itself. The satisfying crack of each egg, the clank of the tiny glossy chocolate chips, and the almost hypnotic motion of rolling each warm lump of dough into a tiny ball... *sigh* Who needs Nigella!! Ok, I need Nigella, but I'm still happy with the cookies, and my coworkers certainly didn't have any complaints either.

Sure, I'd like to say that I made some cookies from scratch, but then I'd be a liar. A cheater I may be, but a liar I am not. And maybe I'll attempt the Nigella recipe someday, and maybe I'll chicken out that time too. Either way, I'll have a smile on my face and a delicious batch of cookies waiting for me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

So What the %*@$ is a Bulla?

That, my friends, is a complex question. Since I can remember, my Grandma Anna has repeatedly warned my mother not to deprive her three adoring daughters of, well, anything for fear of developing a bulla (pronounced boo-lah). This "anything" was usually food, perhaps a sweet treat before dinner or a nibble of a new food we had never tasted. It involved a little whining on our part before my grandma would finally chime in "Oh, give 'em some or you'll give 'em a bulla," with a dismissive wave of her hand.

Strangely, my sisters and I never actually asked what a "bulla" was. For years, I imagined a bulla as a shiver. Something that made your shoulders shake back and forth or like the feeling I get that crawls up my spine when I hear the sound of velcro or Robin Thicke. My little sister Gracie once said she thought a bulla was something old women wore wrapped around their heads. She may have been confusing it with a 'babushka,' but it's safe to say we were all a little confused. When asked, my grandma would usually describe it as a "a little spot because you didn't get what you wanted."

Knowing my grandma to be a little strange, I assumed a bulla to be completely fictional. Years of reading The National Enquirer and The World News could do weird things to a person, and my grandma had a subscription to both. She once warned my cousin Steven that farting and burping at the same time would lead to spontaneous combustion, and eased Sara's fears of entering her dark and creepy basement by saying "If the monster eats you up, he'll just shit you out." Considering the source, I concluded that surely I couldn't develop a spot or boil by being denied a cookie or a piece of salami. Nevertheless, the concept of a bulla always stuck with me.

So at the age of 24, I decided to do a little research. When asked, my grandma says the origin of the bulla starts with her father. Apparently, she accepted the theory as fact and passed the information to her children and grandchildren. I then turned to the internet for further investigation. With a simple google search, I was linked to MedicineNet.com. And there it was, a bulla. According to the site, a bulla is "a fluid filled blister no more than 5 mm in diameter with thin walls or any rounded protrusion or boil (A BOIL!), particularly one that is hollow or cystic." Albeit disgusting, my grandma was right...sort of. Granted the definition doesn't make mention of being denied a potato chip or tootsie roll as the cause, a bulla is a real thing! Imagine my suprise.

So I realized that my grandma's definition of a bulla was the perfect blend of scientific fact and folksy fiction. And better yet, what a lovely way to live. Try a little of this, dabble in that. The point is to not deny yourself. Have a taste! And that's the aim of this blog. I certainly have the time and the resources (kind of) to try new things, and what better place than a blog to detail the hilarity that is sure to ensue? Within my means, I hope to finish each week having done something new or different. A new class at the gym, a new recipe, a new hairstyle, anything to spice it up a bit. Because when it boils (no pun intended) down to it, who wants a bulla?